Burning Question Number 5

Next up on my series answering Danielle LaPorte's Burning Questions is this one: What's your relationship to silence?

I have one word:


Alright, that's it for me!

Just kidding. But this is how I really feel. My husband gets so annoyed when I mute the TV, even if no one is watching (so why not just turn it off, I know?). I crave silence. I look back so fondly on the days when I could do a whole sequence of yoga poses complete with ujjayi breathing. Just me and downward-facing dog.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy the Sounds of Motherhood: the running of little feet up and down the hallway, the shrieks and giggles, even the occasional cartoon theme song that's just really cute. And there are other sounds I appreciate too, of course, like good music, Brian Williams reciting the news while I cook dinner or the weekly Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me podcast on Mondays. Sound can surely be as comforting as silence. But if you can't stand silence, what does that say about you? Do you have a hard time "turning off"? Can't unplug?

I will admit, I can't sleep in silence. That might be because my room wouldn't really be silent without my noise machine; it would be filled with the sounds of man and dog snoring. I also can't stand the sound of someone chewing food right next to me (or gum — ew) if the room is otherwise silent. Call me crazy, but I think that's normal. I don't know anyone who likes the sound of their mate chewing carrots. But I digress.

There has always been a lot of talk in the yoga world (which just means I've read an article about it and saw something else on Positively Positive today) about taking temporary vows of silence, and before kids I was tempted, but I knew my husband wouldn't go for it. He doesn't "get" it. But I think, obviously, without words, you're forced to use other mediums to express your feelings. Hugs. Kisses. Expressions of concern, distaste, sadness, thought. I dare say physical contact would increase, which is usually a good thing, and proofs of your state of mind would be perhaps more intentional, slow and sincere.

It's obvious that generally speaking silence is not a trait our culture values, unless in the ironic sort of way, the we've-stopped-talking-and-all-we-do-is-text-email-Facebook-tweet sort of way. So it can be hard to even want to seek out moments of quiet. Why should we? I'll give you a list of reasons and how to get there.

  • Silence quiets the mind, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. I know this may sound counterintuitive — sometimes lying in bed before falling asleep at night, with all the quiet in the world, that's when your mind tends to race and wander the most — but with practice, you'll start to realize that silence is the place to be. Background noise just adds to the chatter in your mind. Aim to start every day in silence. For at least 15 minutes, for example, while you rise, brush your teeth, shower and get dressed, leave the TV, email dinging and music off. Absorb and enjoy the sounds around you of water, or the quiet of the house, or the birds outside. It's a peaceful way to begin your day.
  • Silence is the best foundation for prayer and/or meditation. Yes, guided meditation can be both helpful and relaxing, but in a pinch, the goal here is to just stop your thoughtsYou can't feel worried if you're not thinking about what worries you. I know it sounds impossible, but the idea here is to recognize each thought that pops up and then imagine it floating away. Don't give it your attention.
  • Your silence, in the presence of others/during conversation, paired with appropriate physical cues and acknowledgments, of course, can show the speaker you value his/her opinion and are respecting their time at the mic. I've always said there are 2 kinds of people in the world: Those who listen to you when you speak and those who are just thinking about what they're going to say next. Don't be that guy. A lot of times, all people want to do is talk, get something off their chest, vent. If they want to know what you think they should do, trust me. They'll ask.
  • Silence is closely related to gratitude. I also can often be heard saying that you can't feel two emotions at once. It's physically impossible to feel sad and grateful, worried and excited, lonely and ecstatic at the same time. It's one or the other. So if you're sitting there in silence, thinking about the beautiful sunshine, perhaps, or your upcoming vacation, or the delicious cookie you're eating, you have no choice but to feel grateful. Don't think about the last moment or the next one; enjoy the one you're in. Bask in it. Bathe in it. Be grateful for it and you'll be a happier person.
  • Silence, when used appropriately, can save you from a world of hurt. I know a lot of people live by the philosophy Don't Go To Bed Angry, but take it from a girl who's learning 10 years into a marriage: Just. Go. To. Bed. It doesn't matter if you're angry, scared, nervous or hurt; you have no idea how many times it's better to just sleep on it. Don't say something you'll regret. Either revisit the issue with a clear head or forget about it; sometimes you have to pick your battles. Don't let it turn into stonewalling, but if you can, express the sentiment to sleep on it to whomever you're having the kerfuffle with and turn the other cheek if further insults are hurled your way — at least until you've both cooled off a bit.

If you cultivate this kind of soft, intentional relationship with silence, your day to day will feel more calm and peaceful. I tell myself several times throughout the day to turn off the TV (or avoid turning it on), leave the radio off too and enjoy the sounds of my kids. Driving in silence on the school run can also be calming at times, especially when my 2-year-old is anything but silent in the back seat. It will affect your relationships, your sanity, even your productivity for the better. And once you start seeing and feeling those results, a silent prayer of gratitude will form more often at your lips instead of another snappy retort.


Filed under: Chasing peace

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